Whether the length of time since that act was made has not given opportunity to debtors,
(1) To evade the force of the act by ways and shifts to avoid the power of it, and secure their estates out of the reach of it.
(2) To turn the point of it against those whom it was made to relieve. Since we see frequently now that bankrupts desire statutes, and procure them to be taken out against themselves.
2. Whether the extremities of this law are not often carried on beyond the true intent and meaning of the act itself by persons who, besides being creditors, are also malicious, and gratify their private revenge by prosecuting the offender, to the ruin of his family.
If these two points are to be proved, then I am sure it will follow that this act is now a public grievance to the nation, and I doubt not but will be one time or other repealed by the same wise authority which made it.
1. Time and experience has furnished the debtors with ways and means to evade the force of this statute, and to secure their estate against the reach of it, which renders it often insignificant, and consequently, the knave against whom the law was particularly bent gets off, while he only who fails of mere necessity, and whose honest principle will not permit him to practise those methods, is exposed to the fury of this act. And as things are now ordered, nothing is more easy than for a man to order his estate so that a statute shall have no power over it, or at least but a little.
If the bankrupt be a merchant, no statute can reach his effects beyond the seas; so that he has nothing to secure but his books, and away he goes into the Friars. If a Shopkeeper, he has more difficulty: but that is made easy, for there are men and carts to be had whose trade it is, and who in one night shall remove the greatest warehouse of goods or cellar of wines in the town and carry them off into those nurseries of rogues, the Mint and Friars; and our constables and watch, who are the allowed magistrates of the night, and who shall stop a poor little lurking thief, that it may be has stole a bundle of old clothes, worth five shilling, shall let them all pass without any disturbance, and hundred honest men robbed of their estates before their faces, to the eternal infamy of the justice of the nation.
And were a man but to hear the discourse among the inhabitants of those dens of thieves, when they first swarm about a new-comer to comfort him, for they are not all hardened to a like degree at once. "Well," says the first, "come, don't be concerned, you have got a good parcel of goods away I promise you, you need not value all the world." "All! would I had done so," says another, "I'd a laughed at all my creditors." "Ay," says the young proficient in the hardened trade, "but my creditors!" "Hang the creditors!" says a third; "why, there's such a one, and such a one, they have creditors too, and they won't agree with them, and here they live like gentlemen, and care not a farthing for them. Offer your creditors half a crown in the pound, and pay it them in old debts, and if they won't take it let them alone; they'll come after you, never fear it." "Oh! but a statute," says he again. "Oh! but the devil," cries the Minter. "Why, 'tis the statutes we live by," say they; "why, if it were not for statutes, creditors would comply, and debtors would compound, and we honest fellows here of the Mint would be starved. Prithee, what need you care for a statute? A thousand statutes can't reach you here." This is the language of the country, and the new-comer soon learns to speak it; for I think I may say, without wronging any man, I have known many a man go in among them honest, that is, without ill design, but I never knew one come away so again. Then comes a graver sort among this black crew (for here, as in hell, are fiends of degrees and different magnitude), and he falls into discourse with the new-comer, and gives him more solid advice. "Look you, sir, I am concerned to see you melancholy; I am in your circumstance too, and if you'll accept of it, I'll give you the best advice I can," and so begins the grave discourse.